Thursday, 16 March 2017

Oyam widow struggles to change lives of communities

Hope Mafaranga
It is quite disturbing when you listened to a moving testimony from Eddy Okello, a widow who was displaced by Karimojong cattle raiders and later three of her kids abducted by the Lord`s Resistance Army (LRA).
Life is not stable, there is ups and downs part of it, a person may not imagine at certain point in time he or she will overcome the psychologically stress inflicted in his or her life and become very success in life. 
“We migrated from Olilim Sub County in Otuke district 1986 by the Karimonjong cattle rustlers,” she narrated. 
“We were displaced to Lira town and again the LRA insecurity invaded the region and ended up in Internally Displaced People camp in Lira town,” she added.  
Never would Okello expect to be the chairperson of prominent cooperative society with 6,250 members, both men and women. She is the chairperson of Acwec Omio Women Group suited at Acan Pii in Loro Sub County, Oyam district.
“Two of my girls were kidnapped by the LRA rebels from Iceme Girls secondary school including a boy, Omara Denis when we were still in Olilim,” she continued. Omara 12 was abducted when she was going to school.
After years living in squalid IDP camp at Pentecostal Church Uganda, life was not easy with Okello as most of the time the group relay on handout or relief from humanitarian agencies. She spent two years battling to survive in the camp.
She could retail water in town and fetched them with people doing construction at the cost sh100 per jerrican. Casual work like digging people`s garden was also another way of surviving in the camps which had displaced from Otuke and Alebtong 17,000.
Since Okello was looking at the future of the family, she could save the money purposely to acquire land and settled in Oyam. Okello`s 200 hectares was in Otuke and dormant.
“In 2003 we decided to buy this land at sh150, 000 and settled here,” she explained. The land is measuring 15 hectares.
In the piece of land Okello is comfortably producing adequate food and practicing commercial farming including paying fees for her children though she is a widow. The husband died last year. She has planted soya as oil seed, keeping 50 bee hives, sunflower, goats and rearing pigs.    
“I got 56kg of honey last year and sold each kilo at 15,000kg,” she added.  Other crops she produces in small quantity are simsim, groundnuts, beans and millet.
“We also bulk in our store things like sunflower, soya, maize and sorghum, waiting for the good market,” Okello added.
With planting season, no one could belief Okello spent two years in camp because several crops are coming up in his gardern around the compound.  
A close look to his compound it shows the one for a village tycoon as a number of group members keep on spending leisure hours at her home. She has constructed a permanent house in her compound after practicing commercial forming for some times.
Chairperson of cooperative
The group started with 15 members living in IDP camps but they become so active and other people also decided to join them. Now the group has shot to 6.250 members (3,000 men and 3,250 women) with it big store Acan Pii trading center.
International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) trained the group how to use fertilizers and have bumping harvest.
“IFDC gave us tarpaulin and advised us to buy improved seed if the cooperative is to go commercial,” she recalled.   
The group according to Okello is now stabilized and buying seeds from Victoria Seeds, Equator Seeds and Uganda Oil Seeds and Processor Association. She said each member has his owned land and would plant his or her crops and bulk it as a group.
The store
When she was given a chance to lead the group of farmers and revamp the cooperative society, Okello requested African Development Foundation to build a store to bulk their produce.
“They told us to prepare Bill of Quantity and give them. UOSPA helped us to prepare and we give them,” she added. She said the BOQ took two years and they were almost giving up on the request.
“But fortunately the request was honored and started construction while the community contribution was land, bricks and water,” she said. 
UOSPA donated sh45m to help the group with the construction of the store but now the store has the capacity of bulking 800 matrix tons.
 Okello`s fear.
“We are scared that the LRA will come back because for many times she will eagerly be attempting to come back to northern Uganda and start committing atrocities,” she added.
Okello says she is a peace maker and also among delegation who talked to Joseph Kony to stop fighting when the Uganda People Defence Force (UPDF) flashed him to Garamba forest in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“I went to Kenya and later to Garamba forest,” she elaborated.
Pictures and voices attached

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